In terms of careers, becoming an astronaut — including Russian cosmonauts and Chinese taikonauts — is the pinnacle of achievement. Of the 7.6 billion people on Earth, only around 570 have gone into space. Only 24 have traveled beyond low Earth orbit and just 12 have walked on the moon. It’s an elite group, there’s no doubt about that.
Becoming an astronaut takes great dedication and no lack of risk. Astronauts are highly motivated and focused, but they also know how to work as part of a team, both alongside their fellow spacefarers plus the scientists and engineers back on Earth.
Having gone into space, astronauts also have a unique perspective of our planet and human society. Ever since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, these inspirational explorers have been imparting their wisdom to the rest of their earthbound brethren. Here are some of their inspiring and motivating words — quotes that can help us reach for the stars, both metaphorically and literally.
To be the first to enter the cosmos, to engage single-handed in an unprecedented duel with nature — could anyone dream of anything greater than that?
— Yuri Gagarin
The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.
— Donald Williams, NASA astronaut
To become an astronaut is not a question of being the best at something or things coming easy to you, but it’s being a person that can work with others and not give up.
— Michael J Massimino, NASA astronaut
What everyone in the astronaut corps shares in common is not gender or ethnic background, but motivation, perseverance, and desire — the desire to participate in a voyage of discovery.
— Ellen Ochoa, NASA astronaut and first Latina woman to go to space
Again the pressure pushes me in the chair, shuts my eyes. I notice the dark red tongues of flame outside the windows. I'm trying to memorize, fix all the feelings, the peculiarities of this descending, to tell those who will be conquering space after me.
— Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut and first woman in space
Life is full of so many small, unexpected pleasures, not just in space but right here on Earth, and I think I see them more clearly now than I used to because microgravity insists you pay attention.
— Chris Hadfield, Canadian Space Agency astronaut
Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.
— Christa McAuliffe, teacher and astronaut who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds… to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.
— Ellison S. Onizuka, NASA astronaut and first Asian American in space
Curiosity is the essence of our existence.
― Gene Cernan, NASA astronaut and the last person to walk on the moon
If we adopt the same collaborative mindset and practices that got to the moon and back, and that built the International Space Station, we can alleviate poverty — and do much more.
― Ron Garan, NASA astronaut
I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul… we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.
— Neil Armstrong, NASA astronaut
Let me say, as I sit here before you today having walked on the moon, that I am myself still awed by that miracle. That awe, in me and in each of us… must be the engine of future achievement, not a slow dimming light from a time once bright.
– Buzz Aldrin, NASA astronaut
I often tell young kids, and particularly my grandkids, don’t ever count yourself out. You’ll never know how good you are until you try. Dream the impossible and then go out and make it happen. I walked on the moon. What can’t you do?
— Gene Cernan, NASA astronaut
There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief.
— Neil Armstrong
Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.
— Mae Jemison, NASA astronaut and first Black woman in space
I like to think of ideas as potential energy. They're really wonderful, but nothing will happen until we risk putting them into action.
— Mae Jemison
All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.
— Sally Ride, NASA astronaut and first American woman in space
The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it.
— Kalpana Chawla, NASA astronaut and first woman of Indian origin in space
I chased my dreams. In the end, find what gets you excited and chase it.
— Guion Bluford, NASA astronaut and the first Black American to go to space
Know what it is that drives you, motivates you and pursue it. Endeavor to work to make it happen.
— Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut
One truth I have discovered for sure: When you believe that all things are possible and you are willing to work hard to accomplish your goals, you can achieve the next “impossible” dream. No dream is too high!
— Buzz Aldrin
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